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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Wathiq’s way

KOTA KINABALU: Wathiq Naji Jasim sees suspension and injury to key players as the main factors that could wreck the Rhinos’ season in the 2009 Premier League challenge.

But the Rhinos’ Head Coach is aware that it is beyond his control and that it could happen to any other team in the league.

He said these factors will haunt any coach or team in the world, who does not have enough experienced players in the team.

Although Wathiq is happy to see the development of the team since he took over the hot seat succeeding Croatian coach Drago Mamic about two months ago or so, he is fully aware of what lies ahead for his rather new-look squad.

The Iraqi was forced to start from scratch following the mass exodus of first-team players at the end of last season.

The FA of Malaysia’s decision to do away with the foreign players does not help him at all as he was left with less than five first-team players from last season’s squad.

Until today, Wathiq, 69, still refused to really talk about the strengths and weaknesses of his new-look side as he prefers to look ahead and prepare the team to the best of his capabilities.

And despite being handed with the mammoth task with so many shortcomings surrounding the team, Wathiq has no complaints, and has opted to work with the existing players that he has.

With over 40 years of experience, Wathiq knows exactly what he is doing and planning for the team.

“This is not the toughest or the most difficult job I have ever had,” Wathiq said.

“This is a new team with a lot of inexperienced players. But we are slowly building the team from scratch.

“It is not an easy job, but I believe we will slowly achieve our objective. Now, I’m building the team … starting from the defence to the strike-force because having a new team is different compared to having a team that has been together for a long time.

“Now I build the team’s foundation from the defence. At the same time I also want to make sure that the team’s morale is always high. In order to do that, I must try to make sure that we are picking up points in all our matches, because when the team’s morale is down, is not easy to motivate them.

“That is what I’m doing now … trying to make sure that if we cannot win a match, we must not lose too.

“Up to now, we have succeeded in our plans, but I’m afraid after five or six games, cards and injuries could affect the performances of the team and players are bound to get injured or suspended. Insya Allah it will not happen to our team,” said Wathiq.

“We also need more time to correct some aspects of our game such as set pieces, throw-in corners and so on.

He said that the FAM’s decision to play two games a week also affects their training as players need time to recover.

“That is why in my training, I want to create a balance as we need an acceptable fitness level among the players.

But Wathiq is happy to note that his charges have started to slowly understand how he wants them to play the game.

“We haven’t got any super stars in the squad. So we have to teach them how they should play in certain departments. We also explain to them what it means … ball possession so that they will be more confident when they have the ball.”

Among the seniors left in the squad are Rosdin Wasli, Zainizam Marjan, Wong Sai Kong and Julamri Muhammad.

The signing of Mohd Fariss Azlan Mat Isa and the return of several ex-State players such as Rezuan Khan Aman, Billyton Vun Ket Ming, Gasili Pangalot and Mafry Balang to name a few has helped prevent Wathiq from having more headaches in building the squad.

For the record, the Rhinos kicked off their challenge with a 2-0 win over Premier League newcomers SDM Kepala Batas of Penang before being held to a stalemate by Proton FC in the second game.

Now the league is currently taking a break and would resume on February 9.

However, the team will be involved in the FA Cup first round campaign where they will be travelling to Kuala Lumpur for the first leg tie on January 31 before playing the return leg at the Likas Stadium on February 3.

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